Episode 5, Series 2 – The Moon and the Ragworm

It all started with me looking up at the sky one night and asking myself what I thought was a very simple question: “how does the Moon affect us and other animals on Earth?”. When I started asking this question around I got a lot of confusing and contradicting answers. So the first thing I thought I should do was to speak to an astronomer to find out what exactly the moon does to our planet. Prof. Tim O’Brien, associate director of the Jodrell Bank observatory, did an excellent job at explaining to me how and why tides our formed. I was actually quite embarrassed when I realised I knew so little about the science behind sea tides.

After speaking to Tim we went to talk to Pamela Buchan, the regional officer for the British Science Association, who explained how a lot of sea creatures are influenced by the moon cycles and the tides. In particular she used to work with Nereis Virens (see images below), a type of ragworm that lives in the sandy beaches of Britain and that synchronises its feeding and reproductive cycles with the sea tides.

At the end of the podcast you will hear the poem “Time and the Ragworm” and the musical composition “Eight Bells“, both written by the artist John Kefala Kerr. His work, just like ours, was inspired by the moon cycles, the sea tides and the peculiar reproductive behaviour of the ragoworms.

Time and the Ragworm

Sensors bristling, a water nymph
—virgin still, in chiffon skin,
afraid to eat for fear she’s eaten—
appeases her species’ superstitions
with a curl of her fillet-body.

Admiring herself (and knowing better
the time of day than either you or I,
and of night, and month too, and even
of life itself, for she has not yet found love),
she leaves her seabed hide in search of food.

‘Swim me and I shall be swum,’ she sings.
Breathe me and so shall I be,’ she cries,
addressing that myth which says size
is no protection against a gluttonous Tern
and petite Cinderellas are guaranteed

a Prince Charming to carry them off
—over the tide’s bell-curve—
to a place where, brushed like a comb,
their blue-veined bodies will attract
more than mere paper and balloons.

Written by John Kefala Kerr and recited in the podcast by Robbie I’Anson Price

Nereis Virens, also known as the king ragworm

Nereis Virens, also known as the king ragworm

The lovely face of the ragworm

The lovely face of the ragworm

Nereis Virens, pretty much a miniature version of the monster from Tremor

Nereis Virens, pretty much a miniature version of the monster from Tremor

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One comment on “Episode 5, Series 2 – The Moon and the Ragworm

  1. Pingback: Full interview with Tim O’Brien | The Life Sciences Podcast

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